While Ubisoft Montreal worked diligently on these shooters, a small in-house research team was developing a wildly different take on the Tom Clancy universe. 

Serge Hascoet: The game started in Paris – it was an RTS, and finally we decided together it was not good. Two of the developers went to New York when we started a studio there, and the game went another direction – an action adventure game on a floating island. It was in development for one or two years and nothing was great except some graphics and animation. At the same time New York was too expensive so we asked people to go to Montreal – this was at the same time we bought Red Storm. We had a meeting with Yves and said, “Okay, this game has some issues, what should we do?" We asked the team to work on a spy game for consoles. Some great guys joined the team like Antoine Dodens, who was a programmer, and he strongly believed that it was possible to do the light and shadow system. Everyone else was against it in the company, but he was right. 

Yves Guillemot: We were unsure about the potential of that product and we said, "If we used the Clancy brand on this idea, it could really help it to perform." We said, "Okay, the only way to beat Metal Gear is to go on the console where it's not, with something a lot better graphically because it’s not available on PlayStation." So we said, “Let’s give ourselves some competitive advantages so that we have a chance to do something that will be better than the best of the best.” That is how we decided to ship on the Xbox alone. We knew that some aspects would be not as good as [Metal Gear], but using the technology of that machine we would be superior in terms of graphical quality. So that is why we said, “We know we won’t sell that many because the machine is new and it’s not selling huge quantities yet, but it is a way for us to create a brand on a machine that has low competition.”

Then we went to Microsoft and we said, “Look at what we’re doing for you.” We did a survey where we asked consumers, “Would you buy a machine to get this game?” and, “What would you think if you had a Metal Gear-type game on the Xbox?” It showed that game would sell machines like hotcakes. Microsoft has a good marketing team, and they realized quickly that this game could help the console. Then they helped us optimize it on the machine.

Cecile Cornet: I was doing communications at the time, and a few months before Splinter Cell came out Yves told me, “Prepare yourself, because it’s going to be big for us.” And it was. I was surprised how Yves had anticipated the success.

Splinter Cell was an instant hit, winning a Game Developers Choice Award for excellence in writing and Interactive Achievement Awards for best console game and outstanding achievement in gameplay engineering. Sequels Pandora Tomorrow, Chaos Theory, Double Agent, and Conviction were critically acclaimed as well. To date the franchise has sold over 20 million units.